Sophie (the film’s writer and director, performance artist Miranda July) teaches dance to toddlers and Jason (Hamish Linklater, a US version of Stephen Mangan) is that person on the end of the IT support helpline. They’re in their mid-thirties: that’s a dangerous age if you’ve been together for a few years, have no children, and are drifting in semi-slackerdom in Los Angeles, living life through your laptop.
“Thirty-five is only five years from 40 and anything after that is just loose change – not enough to get you anything you want,” says Jason.
Deciding to adopt Paw Paw means becoming adults, being responsible – and the end of their dreams of what their lives could have been. For what they see as their last thirty days of freedom, they decide to do what they really want – to give up their jobs and follow their instincts: Sophie planning to invent a dance a day and YouTube it, and Jason following whatever fate turns up for him if he’s alert to the signs.
Both with curly mopheads of hair, they look alike, sound alike, their lives together are low energy, low key, awkward, somehow bleached out – in the same way that they have not really engaged with life so far, it can be hard to engage with them at first. As the days clock by on the calendar, their paths start to diverge. Creatively blocked, Sophie arranges to meet a middle-aged stranger (Marshall, played by David Warshofsky); Jason gets involved in to trying to save the environment by selling trees door to door. And suddenly the film takes off into unexpected directions, swooshing past reality, leaving it earthbound, taking off into a kind of magical realism where time stands still and the lives of the two protagonists start to run in parallel instead of together.
Quirky, idiosyncratic – those adjectives could have been invented for Miranda July’s work. The Future is her second film (her first was 2005’s Me and You and Everyone We Know) and her short stories, videos and performances explore her unique take on contemporary life. As well as a talking cat (voiced by July), The Future has a talking moon and a real – though eccentric - person playing himself. It’s weird, it’s funny and silly, it’s sad but not mawkish, despite the talking cat. It’s an artist’s film, emotionally subtle, but not arid. It admits the future’s scary, yet inevitable, but also that you don’t appreciate what you’ve got till it’s gone.
If Miranda July’s work intrigues you – and it does me – she is in conversation in the London Film Festival on the South Bank on 22 October and The Future is screened from 20-23 October.
Did Paw Paw live or die? You’ll have to see The Future to find out. But if seeing it gives you a taste for cats on film, A Cat in Paris, an animation also showing at the LFF, might be worth a look.